There are many rum varieties you can use for pairing. Our master blender, Manuel Inoa, recommends the E. León Jimenes 110 Aniversario rum. “It’s the best for cigars. Essentiablly tailored for pairing,” he says. And he adds: “A good cigar with good rum… that is something you cannot help but appreciate. One of the best things out there.” Therefore, in this video, he teaches how to combine cigar and rum. The main advice is that there must be harmony in the pairing of cigars and rum.
On pairing, should I serve my drink proportional to my smoke? Is there a way of picking the right cigar?
For pairing you don’t need to worry much about format or ring gauge. What matters is delivery. What do I mean by delivery? I’m referring to the flavor notes that the cigar will deliver and the flavor notes that the drink will deliver. In our case, it’s rum. You can pair your cigar just fine with wine, cognac, whiskey, even coffee. Water too. In my case, I’m very familiar with my rum. It has a very classy flavor profile, honeyed cocoa and coffee notes, for example. The cigar I choose, also goes along that line. I could have chosen a Churchill or a Corona. For pairing, it wouldn’t make a difference. The blend matters though, the flavors that the cigar delivers matter.
Let’s say we contrast with body, a light bodied cigar with a full bodied rum, does that mean anything?
That’s a good question on how to pair. Obviosly, you shouldn’t make the mistake of pairing a strong cigar and light rum. Or vice-versa, with a light cigar and strong rum. That’s not pairing, that’s overlapping. Picked a light cigar? Then pick a light drink. Our goa lis for flavors to harmonize, not compete. That way they elegantly match each other. If you have a light cigar with a strong drink, the natural flavors found in the tobacco will be overshadowed by the strenght of the drink. The drink will simply dominate. In our case, with La Aurora’s rum, our honeyed vanilla cocoa notes will be on top. Flavors that are generally not present in light cigars. They pack some weight.
However, if our cigar has shared notes with our rum, they will come together. The shared flavors become stronger and the rest is enhanced. Like honey or molasses notes from the rum mixing with peppery notes from the cigar. This harmonious mix in flavors is very elegant. This harmonious mix in flavors is very elegant. It’s almost like with food. You tend to match the strength of your food’s flavors with your drink. A mismatch will ruin the experience of your favorite. If you enjoy drinks more, a poorly matched cigar will take away from the enjoyment of your drink. It’s the same the other way around. If your’re a smoker and you match your drink poorly, youl’ll say, “oh, man, my cigar’s ruined!”
How does the rum change our retrohale experience?
Well, the example I always give people is: If you’re sick, or congested, you can have the best rum in the world and won’t be able to pick up the flavor. The best cognac in the world and you won’t get the flavor. The best meal in the world and you won’t get the flavor if your sense of smell is not working. It will just be a problema for detecting flavors and aromas. Flavor is intrinsically connected to smell. So, with a healthy palate and sinuses, we’ll get the strong flavors from the rum first in our palate, or whichever drink you’re having. We’ll get those basic flavors like sweet, salty, etc. When the strength goes away, we are left with residue in our palate that makes its way to our sinuses. And that’s whre the cigar comes into play. When you retrohale your cigar, that’s where the pairing of flavors occurs. It’s largely passive too. You do not need to constantly retrohale (or do so at all) to pick up on flavor notes. It’s all because some of that information in the smoke makes its way to the sinuses. It’s someting that happens because the palate and sinuses are connected! So even if you don’t retrohale, you can still pick up on flavors to a degree, and that is what makes you decide if you like or dislake a cigar. And learning to retrohale lets you perform this deliberately. And that triggers our sensory memory.
I remember a talk I gave in Italy if I’m not mistaken, of around 200 people. We were diving into flavor notes collectively, and some people mentioned leather, coffee and other notes; and all of the sudden one guy says, “I’m getting an eggplant note”. Everyone in the room questions this, “this guy’s crazy! How can a cigar have an eggplant note?”. It’s partially true, I’ve never noted that flavor. Regardless, we take a minute to calm the crow and ask the gentleman, “remember flavor notes come from memories”. The guy said he liked to fish, and of course, he liked eggplant. So he went fishing by the river and set up a fire to cook his catch. So he set his catch on a spike and an eggplant on another and let it sit in the flame. So obviosuly, the fish and eggplant are catching the smoke from the Wood as this happens, hence, his eggplant note is actually smoked Wood. His confusión came from eating eggplant, but remembering the flavors in it that were imparted by the smoked Wood, which is common in cigars. So he came to that realization by connecting that memory to the cigar we were smoking that day and we all learned something. It all goes back to sitting down and enjoying your cigars for their flavor. That’s why I don’t really recommend smoking while actively doing something, you’re misiing out on this part of the enjoyment. Find a comfotable spot at home for smoking.